Online Froissart

Besançon, Bibliothèque municipale, ms. 865

Godfried Croenen, with the collaboration of Peter Ainsworth

Jean Froissart, Chronicles, Book II (without beginning) and Book III, ca. 1410–1420


  • fol. Ar–Ir: table of rubrics, rubric: "Ci commencent les rubriches du second volume des croniques de sire Jehan Froissart", inc. : "Premierement ce livre contient les nouvelles guerres", expl. : "comme d’autre par mer et par terre aussi. CCCC LI" final rubric: "Ci finent les rubriches du second volume des croniques sire Jehan Froissart."
  • fol. 1r–200v: Jean Froissart, Chronicles, Book II (without the beginning, which is found in the first volume), rubric: "Cy commence le second volume de sire Jehan Froissart, qui contient les nouvelles guerres de France, d’Angleterre, d’Escoce, d’Espaigne, de Flandres et d’Ytalie et de pluseurs autres parties du monde", inc. : "Vous avés bien oy cy dessus recorder comment", expl. : "l’an de Grace mil trois cens quatre vins et cinc" final rubric: "Ci commence le tiers volume de sire Jehan Frossart."
  • fol. 201r–451v: Jean Froissart, Chronicles, Book III, first redaction, rubric: "Comment sire Jehan Froissart enqueroit diligemment comment les guerres s’estoient portees par toutes les parties de France", inc. : "Je me sui longuement tenu a parler", expl. : "depuis ce tiers livre clos, je m’enfourmeray voulentiers" final rubric: "¶ Explicit le second volume des croniques maistre Jehan Froissart, et le tiers aussi, lequel commence en la fin de la guerre de Flandres, et de la chartre de la paix que le duc de Bourgoingne et la duchesse donnerent, accorderent et seellerent a ceulx de Gand en la cité et ville de Tournay, comme maistre Jehan Froissart meismes tesmoingne en ce livre au fueillet CCC LXXVIIme. Et commence le tiers volume au fueillet CCIe."
  • Physical description:


    This manuscripts contains 21 miniatures by the Boethius Master.
  • fol. 1r: presentation page Boethius Master. The Boethius Master portrays in sequence:
    • a combat on foot between French and English troops
    • the squire Pons du Bois surrendering the keys of the castle of Ventadour (Auvergne) to Geoffroy Tête-Noire, leader of a band of mercenaries, shown stepping forward protected by a gilded pavise or large shield (1379)
    • Pierre de Bournesel, sent by the king of France to foment an insurrection in Scotland against the English, disembarking at the port of Sluys in Flanders where he is welcomed by the count of Flanders’ bailli or representative (1379)
    • the duke of Brittany and the count of Flanders delivering a rebuke to Pierre de Bournesel, who has been arrested by the bailli: ‘When he had come into the count’s chamber at Bruges, the count of Flanders and the duke of Brittany were leaning together on a window ledge overlooking the gardens. Whereupon the knight knelt down before the count and said: “My lord, behold your prisoner”’ (Book II, ed. Diller-Ainsworth, p. 723, tr. Peter Ainsworth).
  • fol. 5r: Arrival of the earl of Salisbury’s fleet off the coast near Gravelines (1379), Boethius Master. A fleet commanded by William de Montague, earl of Salisbury, with duke John IV of Brittany on board, makes its way towards England with all sails billowing before the wind. Montague’s troops carry guisarmes and boar spears for war (pole arms) and a green pavise.
  • fol. 15v: The White Hoods of Ghent (1379), Boethius Master. Armed encounter between the knights of Louis de Male, count of Flanders, and the rebels of the city of Ghent. The White Hoods of Ghent were so-called on account of the white hoods they wore as a badge of identity and mutual recognition; here they also wear red or white breeches rolled down over the knee, whilst another wears a green tunic sewn down the front. They fight with boar spears for war, or with shortened lances, and one of them carries an oval pavise.
  • fol. 25r: John of Arundel’s fleet founders and comes to grief off the Irish coast (1379), Boethius Master. On 7 December 1379 a fleet commanded by John, earl of Arundel, foundered on the coast of Ireland during a violent storm. A valiant commander, John met his death there. We see a broken mast and vessels shipping water, whilst troops weighed down by their mail haubergeons, plate armour and kettle hats or bascinets sink beneath the waves and drown.
  • fol. 49v: The earl of Buckingham lays siege to the city of Nantes (1379-1381), Boethius Master. Having come to Brittany to help duke John IV to recapture his duchy, Thomas of Woodstock, earl of Buckingham, laid siege with his army to the city of Nantes in two successive years: from November 1379 to January 1380, and from November 1380 to January 1381, but to no avail. Three campaign pavilions are raised outside the city gates; half-hidden beneath the white tent, a sentry stands guard with lance or spear, carrying in his left hand an oval pavise decorated with a daisy motif. An armorial banner protruding above the upper margin of the miniature has not been painted.
  • fol. 73r: Peasants’ or Great Revolt (1381), Boethius Master. Beginning in the countryside, the Peasants’ Revolt was at the outset a protest against the imposition of a much-resented poll tax. Led by a former soldier called Wat Tyler, the peasants marched on Canterbury, then London – by which time they numbered more than 100,000 souls. The artist, by a pictorial sleight of hand, allows us to glimpse the crowned head of the king of England, Richard II, atop a rampart over the city’s gates; the insurgents wished in fact to speak directly to the king. The peasants are represented here as soldiers wearing iron caps and in one case a bascinet, with a gorgerin to protect the chin, jaw and throat. One of the rebels wears a white knotted sash around his waist.
  • fol. 103r: Battle of Bruges (1382), Boethius Master. The Battle of Bruges or the Battle of Beverhoutsveld on 3 May 1382 saw the rout of the inhabitants of Bruges and of the troops of Louis, count of Flanders, at the hands of the White Hoods of Ghent, who pursued Louis’ men to the gates of Bruges itself. In the Boethius Master’s composition, a man of Ghent with a white sash around his waist and wearing a green tunic sewn down the front, brandishes above his head a round-headed battle mace.
  • fol. 120v: Battle of Commines on the river Lys (1382), Boethius Master. In November 1382, in order to cross the river Lys via the bridge at Commines, a small contingent led by the marshal of France, Louis of Sancerre, attacked the Flemings of Pieter van den Bossche, captain of Ghent, who were far superior in numbers – but whom they massacred. In this scene, the two armed contingents confront one another on the paved roadway crossing a three-arched bridge of impressive masonry.
  • fol. 133v: Battle of Rosebecque (1382), Boethius Master. On 27 November 1382, Flemish militiamen commanded by Philip Van Artevelde were routed by a royal French army. Charles VI of France had come in person to support his vassal the count of Flanders. Confronting the Flemish militiamen grouped together in a single block without flanking wings or reserves, the constable of France, Olivier de Clisson, resorted to the more effective tactic of setting out his troops in three battalions. When Van Artevelde’s men charged the French, the flanking wings of the French army closed in upon the rebels. No less than 25,000 Flemings were killed that day, including Van Artevelde. In a large miniature, the Boethius Master has placed the rebels in an elevated position, but manages to convey the French royal tactic which was to be their undoing: with visors lowered, the French stand fast in a semicircular formation, whilst below them and to their left a flanking contingent prepares to go into action to hem the enemy in.
  • fol. 151v: Siege of the town of Ypres (1383), Boethius Master. In June 1383, the town of Ypres was besieged by an English army commanded by Henry Despenser, bishop of Norwich; he had launched a ‘crusade’ a month earlier against the supporters of antipope Clement VII, who enjoyed the favour of the French. The town’s inhabitants defended themselves feistily, hurling great rocks down from the ramparts on their assailants. The angry bishop’s excommunication of the town and its citizens was to scant effect; he was obliged to raise the siege in August, his troops having succumbed to dysentery.
  • fol. 179r: Interview between Isabeau of Bavaria and the duchess of Brabant (1385), Boethius Master. Joan, duchess of Brabant, was a consummate diplomat. Her late husband, duke Wenceslas of Luxembourg, had been one of Froissart’s patrons. Joan had acted as intermediary in negotiations designed to secure the marriage of the young French king Charles VI to the daughter of the duke of Bavaria. Joan received Isabeau in Brussels, then sent her to Le Quesnoy to stay with the countess of Hainault, whose mission it was to teach the young Bavarian princess the manners of the French court. The future queen, in a green gown, greets her benefactresses, unless Isabeau is in fact the lady in the scarlet houppelande with raised collar and long sleeves; in this case it is Joan who kneels before her in the green gown. Isabeau of Bavaria married the king of France on 17 July 1385 at Amiens.
  • fol. 201r: presentation page, Boethius Master. In a stylised landscape, four groups of figures represent successive episodes from Froissart’s visit to Béarn in 1388-89: at the centre, the chronicler, standing and dressed in a green houppelande, takes his leave of his patron and protector Guy, count of Blois; Froissart was Guy’s chaplain. The chronicler sets off for Orthez in SW France, domain of Gaston Fébus, count of Foix, whom we recognise here in a scarlet, gold-belted gown under a blue, ermine-lined cloak, with the chronicler kneeling in front of him (left-hand group). Gaston is perhaps the figure we see again to the right, watching with his courtiers as two young men pretend to fight a duel in the centre foreground. The young men probably represent the count’s sons, one legitimate, the other illegitimate, practising armed combat with daggers or shortened swords.
  • fol. 207r: Submission of the garrison at Cazères (1385), Boethius Master. Gaston Fébus has laid siege to Cazères, behind whose walls the count of Armagnac has taken refuge but who will eventually capitulate to Gaston. The soldiers of the count of Foix and Béarn have made a breach in the fortified town’s curtain wall with its corner turrets and flanking buttress. Protected by the pavise held by one of his men, the count, dressed in court costume, steps forward and points at his enemies who, in turn, kneel before him with their hands clasped, begging for mercy. The count’s raised right hand intimates that he is inclined to offer them clemency.
  • fol. 239v: Battle of Aljubarrota (1385), Boethius Master. On 14 August 1385, at Aljubarrota in Portugal, the army of king John I of Portugal, totalling 6,500 men at arms, supported by 600 English bowmen, carried off a great victory against the army of John I of Castille, which numbered no less than 30,000 men supported by a contingent of French knights. The constable of Portugal, Nuno Alvares Pereira, arranged his army across a hill in a defensive position protected by a wickerwork palisade. The Castilian cavalry charges broke themselves against this system, and the king of Portugal went on the offensive. Pavises and shields seem here to offer insufficient protection against the blows raining down from war axes, spears and daggers. To the rear, an English archer spans his bow.
  • fol. 255r: Battle of Kosovo Polje or Field of the Blackbirds (1389), Boethius Master. On 28 June 1389, a Christian army commanded by Lazarus, prince of Serbia, fell upon a Turkish army under Sultan Murad I, at the place known as the Field of the Blackbirds (Kosovo Polje). Sultan Murad was slain early in the battle, but his son Bayazid steadied the Turkish army, so that what was looking like a Serbian victory turned into defeat for the Serbs. It is probably this dreadful battle that the Boethius Master has attempted to depict in these bloody encounters: a soldier to the left brandishes a battle axe, another wraps his left arm around the bared head of an adversary, the better to stab him with his dagger, whilst a third in a red surcoat thrusts his sword through the throat of a man lying next to his discarded pavise.
  • fol. 386v: The duke of Burgundy receiving the emissaries of the duchess of Brabant (1388), Boethius Master. Whilst the troops of the duke of Gelders were busy threatening her duchy, Joan of Brabant, now a widow, childless and already at an advanced age, appealed for help to her ally Philip, duke of Burgundy. The duchess’s emissaries found the duke at Rouen. They are shown here kneeling before the duke, who is promising them help and support.
  • fol. 396r: Combat outside Montferrand (1388), Boethius Master. In February 1388, Perrot le Béarnais (Perrot the Bearnese), captain of a company of routiers or mercenaries supporting the English side, took advantage of the inadequacy of the town watch, capturing the gates of Montferrand in the Auvergne and putting the town to sack. The defenders are shown trying to repel the brigands from behind the town’s wooden barrier defenses, a motif which frequently recurs in the Chroniques.
  • fol. 408v: The duke of Brittany outside a castle (1388), Boethius Master. In January 1387, John IV duke of Brittany had had the constable of France, Olivier de Clisson, arrested; he consented to Clisson’s release on condition that a ransom was paid and on abandonment by the French of a series of towns and castles (Josselin, Lamballe, La Roche-Derrien, Clisson, Guerche...). He was only prepared to restore three of these castles under pressure from emissaries sent by the king of France. In ermine-lined cloak, the duke appears to hesitate as he points towards a castle with raised drawbridge.
  • fol. 426v: Helion de Lignac makes his report to the duke of Berry (1388), Boethius Master. Helion de Lignac, seneschal of La Rochelle, was sent by the elderly duke of Berry to Bayonne in order to negotiate the duke’s marriage to the daughter of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, governor of Gascony for the king of England. But the duke of Lancaster preferred another suitor for the hand of his daughter Catherine, namely the king of Castille’s son. Helion, in red, here gives the duke of Berry an account of the failure of his mission.
  • fol. 433v: Battle of Otterburn (1388), Boethius Master. In August 1388, upon the expiry of a truce, Scottish contingents under James Douglas secured an impressive victory – under cover of darkness – over an English army led by Henry Percy who had chanced upon their camp at Otterburn in Northumberland. For the heroic Scottish captain, the victory was a posthumous one: he died during the battle. The English were unable to deploy their bowmen, the moonlight being too weak for them to aim accurately. The artist here depicts the opposing combattants dismounted and thrusting forwards vigorously with their lances.
  • fol. 441r: Combat at sea between French and English forces off La Rochelle (1388), Boethius Master. Having taken Oloron, Richard, earl of Arundel, admiral of the English fleet, made sail for La Rochelle in August 1388. The battle took place off the coast, with archers engaged on either side, those to the right using a large pavise for cover. A ship’s rudder and poop deck with castle are clearly visible to the left.